Freedom Friday

A new column (we’ll see if I keep it up) in which we take a look at the wonderful world of politics.

That’s Pre-2002 Thinking. Ari Fleischer, former Bush press secretary, has a new gig with a group called Freedom‘s Watch, which has just unveiled a $15 million ad campaign in support of the war. The ad spots feature injured soldiers and parents of soldiers killed in Iraq talking about the importance of not “cutting and running.” At the same time, they show images of 9/11, once again conflating the terrorist attacks with the war in Iraq. Here’s what an injured soldier says in one of the ads:

Congress was right to vote to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. I reenlisted after 9/11 because I don‘t want my sons to see what I saw. I want them to be free and safe. I know what I lost. I also know that if we pull out now, everything I‘ve given and sacrificed will mean nothing. They attacked us, and they will again. They won‘t stop in Iraq. We are winning on the ground and making real progress. It‘s no time to quit. It‘s no time for politics.

Mike Barnicle, sitting in for Chris Matthews, talked to Fleischer about the campaign on Hardball earlier this week.

BARNICLE: …But I‘d like to ask you, how many Iraqis do you figure were on that plane that you showed the shot of flying into the World Trade Center?

FLEISCHER: Mike, it is not about the 2002 decision to go into Iraq. It‘s about terrorism that exists in Iraq today. It‘s about al Qaeda shooting at our troops today and whether or not Congress is going to abandon this mission and leave Iraq to these terrorists. The 2002 debate is an old, stale debate about why we went into Iraq with Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.

BARNICLE: But Ari…

FLEISCHER: You can relive that all you want. Our troops aren‘t reliving that. They‘re living the fight today.

BARNICLE: Ari, the ad is so powerful—the visual aspect of the ad is so powerful, with that wonderful, noble young man and the sight of that plane flying into the World Trade Center, filled with Saudi terrorists, not Iraqis, could lead several Americans, I would expect, to think that, Oh, Iraq was in on 9/11. Don‘t you think so?

FLEISCHER: Mike, you‘re stuck in the 2001-2002 timetable and debate. It is so far beyond that debate. That‘s like saying we have never should have gone into Germany because, after all, it was just the Japanese who attacked at Pearl Harbor. The threat in Iraq today is a threat that comes from al Qaeda. It comes from separatists. It comes from Sunni and Shia. And the problem is, if we cut now and we surrender now, that area will explode, and of course we‘ll be in greater risk, at greater danger from terrorists who gather there. Of course we will, not only in Afghanistan, but there, as well.

Isn’t it bad enough that for the past six years we’ve had to contend with such language as “pre-9/11 thinking”? Now we’ve got to talk about how 70% of the country is “stuck in the 2001-2002 timetable and debate”—well, that catch-phrase is just too long. I suggest this: “That’s soooo 2002,” said with a hint of derision and an eye roll.

The campaign is scheduled to run in 20 states—including Ohio (to get under George Voinivich’s skin)—with the intent of influencing Congress before votes are cast on the war this fall.

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